Finding the “new start-up 2018” at JEC World in Paris

Today the JEC World 2018 in Paris finally starts. The most famous international trade show and platform of the composite industry. The next two days will be really exciting, as my schedule is almost fully booked with interesting meetings.

We will explore the trade show, have a look at innovations and trends, meet innovative people and – as a nice bonus: Will be guests at a complementing party in one of Paris’ famous museums. My bag is packed and instead of bringing my two kids to bed, I will have an exciting trip together with 6 colleagues from different research areas and departments.

New Impulses

We do not only go to Paris to meet well-known industry leaders and strengthen our relationship with well-established partners. We want to find the “new start-up 2018” at JEC World’s start-up boost. It is the largest start-up competition in the field of composites. And I am very proud, that Daimler, besides Airbus and other composite experienced companies, is one of the prestigious jury members and main innovation partners of JEC World 2018.

Amazingly almost 90 start-ups from 25 different countries applied for the start-up boost. And we make quite a big effort to find some start-up companies with high potential and interesting innovations for the automotive industry. Our goal is to support them in their early stage. Help them to grow and to find ourselves new impulses for future research. And gain agile and ambitious partners to develop leading technologies.

In this journey, we are not alone: There will be a pitching session to find the winner of the boost and many meetings besides that to efficiently source and filter the start-ups together with other composite industry players.

A wide range of ideas

During the last weeks I prepared for the boost. How? By reading related scientific articles and especially assessed all relevant start-ups that applied in detail – all to get an idea what’s coming up. I am overwhelmed by the high spectrum of innovations, ideas and the enormous cultural diversity, as for example:

Innovative structural health monitoring of components by using a small intelligent sensor system (from Italy). A new technology of printing carbon-based nanomaterials on different surfaces to optimize performance (from France). Novel coatings to actively cool components by using solar radiation (from Israel). Patented smart and thin acoustic materials to absorb in a cost-effective way unwanted noise (from Ireland), …. and so many more innovations I will face during the next 2 excited days. I can’t even imagine.

For me it will be interesting to see, how start-ups in the composite industry today not only try to spread their name and project over a big range of composite industry leaders. But also try to distinguish themselves from others. As I have worked for a small start-up company years ago, I know the difficulties and challenges start-ups encounter every day:

Finding partners in the industry and research sector, who would be willing to invest time and money in a highly competitive environment. It’s about differentiation! They know, that launching a common research project together with a big industry partner can be essential for their future success.

Turn great ideas to great products

Last year right after JEC World, Daimler started a joint research project with a start-up called CarbonTT. The idea? Build up an ultralight electric delivery van made of low cost carbon fiber profiles to increase vehicle payload for customers. The results were shown recently at Expo Day of Startup-Autobahn at Arena2036 in Stuttgart-Vaihingen. It was a great success and Carbon TT received a lot of positive feedback.

I have the feeling, that many start-ups that applied for the boost this year have a great vision and high originality of their project. There is even some innovative content I don’t have any profound knowledge about. So it will be a big challenge for me to find out the strength and advantages of their business model as well as their global market potential.

I hope, I can hear some inspiring speeches and see first-class prototypes, life product presentations or professional videos. I think, if a company puts some effort into gaining appreciation and show some professional appearance at JEC World, the start-up will hopefully also be ambitious in working on future research projects together with us.

In my opinion, other success factors include having highly qualified staff with profound knowledge of their innovation and an understanding of its probable impact on the automotive industry. With this and a trusting and agile working climate, I believe that we can really develop something outstanding in a short period of time. I am open-minded. Let’s see what happens …!

Birgit Klockenhoff is a project engineer in the development department. In this position she is responsible for screening and rating of startups, to generate new projects.